Make-up design. An interview with Nikki Brannan

Church Hill theatre

Nikki Brannan, free-lance make-up designer and Lecturer. Talks to us about being a Make -up Artist. Find out more about her, her experience and get to know more about make-up design.

Hi Nikki, Tell us a bit about your involvement in make-up design.

Hi, I have been a make-up artist for over 20 years working in theatre, film, TV and fashion and now also in further education for the last five years. Over this period of time I have been involved in designing make up for all the above mediums incorporating wigs, hair and make-up for period documentary dramas, fashion as well as special effects!

I have just completed an Intro to Stage Make-up weekend course at the Conservatoire in Edinburgh which was sold out! It’s a great, informal way to learn some good techniques! I am also planning to deliver a Halloween " intro to special effects" course on Sat 21 and Sun 22 of Oct 2017 in Glasgow 10 -4 pm. So please do get in touch if interested!

 What are the main differences between everyday make up, and make up for the stage?

The main difference is distance! A make-up artist has to enhance the make up by warming up the skin tone and bring out their actor’s features. So it will appear more exaggerated to the eye but noticeable from a distance on stage under the lights.

And then how does stage make up differ to make-up design for film and tv?

Stage make up is applied with distance in mind where make up for film & TV is applied subtly due to the camera/film being similar to a magnifying glass with the invention of High Definition.

What type of make-up do you prefer to design?

I love designing all make up but my favourite has to be period drama documentaries. One example was on the Yorkshire Ripper, I had to research the hammer used and design wounds accordingly. Gory I know!!

Any must have items in your make up kit?

My airbrush, can’t live without it!

Do you have to maintain close relationships with costume and set design teams, ensuring co-ordination, or can you be quite independent working to a brief?

Make-up artists collaborate most closely with the costume department but liaise with all others to ensure a smooth working relationship and positive outcome on a production.

Speaking of teams, is it common for a make-up designer on set to work on the most part alone or are you often working as part of a larger team?

It depends on the Job, a movie tends to be a team effort, whereas a commercial can be often a one person job.

What other skills are important for a make-up designer?

A make-up artist is usually the last person an actor will see before going on stage or camera so it is essential that person has good people skills, has confidence in their ability and has a calming influence when required. This will ensure the best performance from the actor which is what the director expects!